2017: Round 12/20, Belgian GP, Spa-Francorchamps

FORMIDABLE LEWIS THWARTS FASTER FERRARI

Hamilton wins intense race-long duel with Vettel around Spa

1st     LEWIS HAMILTON      Mercedes
2nd    SEBASTIAN VETTEL  Ferrari
3rd     DANIEL RICCIARDO   Red Bull-TAG Heuer

Pundits pronounced Spa ‘a Mercedes circuit’, that Ferrari would face another ‘Silverstone trouncing’. Not so. Mercedes won, but not overwhelmingly. Indeed, this was a Hamilton victory, Lewis the cutting edge at every crucial stage. He beat Vettel to pole, then off the grid, at the SC restart, and finally over the closing 11 laps despite a tyre disadvantage. Accentuating Lewis’s excellence, teammate Bottas failed to keep Vettel off the front row, and then fell foul of a three-abreast mugging by Ricciardo and Räikkönen at the SC restart, finishing P5. Never more than 2s apart, the leaders’ intense race-long duel saw Lewis unable to pull away and Seb rarely within DRS range. Which made the SC restart on lap 34 Vettel’s big chance. Both used the SC to take fresh rubber, Mercedes softs, Ferrari ultra-softs. To neutralise Vettel’s massive tyre advantage – that would have seen the Ferrari tow past on the Kemmel straight – Hamilton throttled back down the hill from La Source to tuck Vettel up under his rear wing through Eau Rouge. But when he came to blast out of Raidillon, he was in the wrong engine mode. Luckily this further restricted Vettel getting a run at him, the Ferrari drawing alongside but unable to pass into Les Combes. The SC was for debris when the Force India’s clashed, costing the infuriated team a double points finish. While Ricciardo snatched a typically opportunistic podium, Verstappen suffered yet more engine woes.
Incidentally…
Hamilton’s pole in his 200th race equalled Schumacher’s all-time record of 68. Despite closing the points-gap to seven, Hamilton will have been shocked by Ferrari’s Spa race pace. The SF70H was the equal of his W08, if not quicker given the clean air he enjoyed in P1. Ferrari development appeared on the cusp of the all-round beating of Mercedes, not just at high-downforce circuits. Little wonder Vettel signed a new three-year contract.

The Championship Chase
Vettel 220, Hamilton 213, Bottas 179, Ricciardo 132, Räikkönen 128
Mercedes 392, Ferrari 348, Red Bull 199, Force India 103, Williams 45

RS
Formula 1 All the Races